[ I am pleased to present this guest post written by Brendan Leo, an Australian Army Cadet corporal. ]
As a corporal with the Australian Army Cadets, I recently had the opportunity to play with the Weapons Training Simulation System. As the name suggests, this is a fully featured simulation system. Trainees fire modified weapons at a cinema sized projection on a wall 10 meters away. Between the wall and the shooters are rocks, obstacles, and anything else you might find on a battlefield. Wind machines and lights provide for weather effects.
The trainees usually fire modified F88 Austeyr rifles and F89 Minimi machine guns at the screen, but any weapon currently used by the Australian Army, as well as several of those used by an opposing force can be simulated. The scenario is controlled by a technician at a console behind the firing line, who sets the wind speed and direction, the weather, and even the number of round through each barrel. The weapon recoil is provided by a tethering line connected to a tank of CO2, and speakers in the butt replicate the sound. Everything down to magazine changes, and jams are simulated, and the weight of the weapon is almost identical to the real thing.
The main utility in the WTSS system is in the many different scenarios that can be replicated, such as defending a position, quick reaction, and even the sudden appearance of a helicopter. The idea behind the system is that soldiers can be placed outside of their comfort zone, using their weapons against a range of targets in different conditions. Different accessories can also be used with the weapons, including but not limited to Ninox (night vision goggles), grenade launchers and reflex sights, in addition to the standard 1.5x scope on the Steyr.
At the end of the simulation, the simulated weapon is cleared in exactly the same way as the real thing; by locking back the bolt, removing and clearing the barrel, then replacing it and rendering the weapon safe. Scores are usually calculated by grouping, at the standard target range, the PASS mark for the Australian Army is a grouping of 200mm at 100m. A grading of sniper is achieved when a group of < 40mm is achieved with 4 groups of 5 shots.
Upon completion, a standard range declaration is carried out, and the trainees receive a printout of their score. The next detail then moves in to shoot. The convenience of having no brass to clean up and no targets to patch out is shadowed by the $15 million AUD price tag for each range.